Growing up, I was an avid reader. I would read books on pretty much anything. I especially loved books that had adventure, intrigue and exciting plots. As they were set in exotic locations, it’s easy to see how they sparked my imagination. Those books had the power to inspire travel and make me want to see the world. I couldn’t wait to visit the places I had read about.
Some of these books are not considered travel books per se. Many are fictional works, sometimes set in mythical or lost worlds. Their plots aren’t always about travel but have the power to spark a sense of adventure and discovery. What makes them special? Each one has a different reason for inspiring me to travel. Here is why.
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I Married the Klondike
This was an easy sell as a massive fan of strong female characters, especially those seeking adventure. I Married the Klondike is a memoir of a 29-year-old kindergarten teacher from Toronto who moves to a mining town in the Yukon in 1907. Expecting a rough mining town filled with brutish miners and showgirls, Laura discovers that Dawson City is quite the opposite.
Nicknamed Paris of the North, Dawson City is a decadent place where people spend lavishly on grand balls, costume parties and endless social events. The latest Parisian fashions are the norm, extravagant sleighing parties and dancing the minuet are just some of Laura’s new life elements. But it’s not all petticoats and glamour. Laura also describes the complex realities of living in a remote mining town, where people often die in their pursuit of gold.
I got this book when I visited Whitehorse in the Yukon. There is something magical about the place that draws you in. Many people who find their way there never leave. It’s really easy to see why. I feel like a part of me got a chance to experience the gold rush life through Laura’s memoirs. It inspires me to go back to the north and explore Yukon more in-depth.
Robinson Crusoe – Daniel Defoe
Published in 1719, Robinson Crusoe is a story of an Englishman who leaves home for the sea and ends up shipwrecked on a deserted island for 28 years. At first, Crusoe gains success and wealth as a merchant and a seaman. After many adventures across the continents, he washes up on a small island, completely alone.
We have seen this same narrative replicated in movies and books. What makes this an interesting read is Crusoe’s experience on the island. Written as a personal narrative, we get an insight into the mind of a man who has to rely on himself to survive. He eventually rescues a native man from the so-called “savages” and names him Friday. Teaching Friday religion and his values (read: typical English imperialistic thinking of the day) gives Crusoe purpose and companionship.
While the idea of getting shipwrecked doesn’t inspire travel, the feelings Crusoe goes through upon returning to England are very relatable. He yearns for what he lost the whole time on the island, yet once he comes back, he finds himself missing the island. It’s a feeling frequent travellers experience after an extended time on the road. Life moves on while you’re gone, and so does your perspective. Crusoe’s desire for the sea is why he leaves the comfort of everything he knows. He wants to see the world that passion is also something fellow travellers will understand.
Read it here: The Project Gutenberg eBook, The Life and Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, by Daniel Defoe
The Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
This book is about betrayal, love, perseverance and revenge. Set in early 19th century France, this is a tale of a young Frenchman, Edmond Dantès. On the day of his wedding to the beautiful Mercedes, Edmond is accused of treason and subsequently arrested. He is thrown in jail at the grim Château d’If, where he spends the next couple of decades. A few years into his sentence, Edmund meets a fellow prisoner, the Italian priest Abbé Faria. The older man educates him for the next decade, giving Edmund what he needs to exact revenge on those that wronged him.
Faria also leaves him directions to an immense treasure hidden on the island of Monte Cristo. When the older man dies, Edmund makes a clever escape from the prison and recovers the treasure to become the mysterious and wealthy Count of Monte Cristo. He infiltrates himself into the lives of his enemies and skillfully exacts his revenge on the unexpected. His journey takes us across France, Italy, Greece and Turkey as the count exacts his revenge.
The Count of Monte Cristo profoundly affected me and definitely managed to inspire travel to distant places. Dumas’ writing has the power to transport readers to different cities and evoke emotion for his characters. I was heartbroken for young Edmund but also inspired by his tenacity. I dreamed of Paris, Rome and Istanbul as I imagined them in the past, and I think you will too.
Read it here: Project Gutenberg's The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas
The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown
You can’t talk about books that inspire travel without mentioning The Da Vinci Code. Dan Brown weaves a story that takes readers across many famous landmarks across Europe. The book is filled with conspiracy theories, secret messages, and hidden symbols that go back centuries, the book takes your imagination on a high-speed ride.
It will definitely inspire travel in anyone wanting to follow in the footsteps of Robert Langdon, Brown’s infallible hero. The book is largely fiction, with certain historical elements interwoven into the narrative that will spark your imagination.
Its popularity has even influenced many Da Vinci Code-inspired tours for those wanting to get even more engrossed in the narrative.
I think that anyone that loves to travel, with a dash of adventure and history, is bound to be inspired. You might even want to revisit the places, like the Louvre, to determine where fact and fiction intercept.
The King’s Deception – Steve Berry
Steve Berry is easily one of my favourite writers. His books are an entertaining blend of history, intrigue and modern-day adventure. The King’s Deception doesn’t disappoint. Berry’s hero, ex-secret agent Cotton Malone, once again gets entangled in an international mystery that brings him to London to unravel the British monarchy’s mysteries.
Cotton has to deal with bad guys while navigating the treacherous game of not knowing who he can trust. Meanwhile, he has to rescue his kidnapped son and another boy entrusted in his care.
There are centuries-old secrets at stake, conspiracies and coverups. This literary thrill ride is enough to inspire travel to London at the next opportunity.
I love this book because it takes you on a tour of London of today and the past. It explores the actual historical events and plays up some theories that lasted through the years. What is true and what is made up will definitely make you search for answers. Berry also incorporates a lot of historical facts that he blends creatively into a fictional narrative.
The Odyssey – Homer
The Odyssey created somewhere around 725 BC by the poet Homer, follows up on the Iliad. Here we meet the Greek hero Odysseus, trying to sail home after the Trojan War. Lost at sea, he falls prey to various mythical foes, including the enchanting siren Calypso.
Odysseus is gone for something like 20 years, during which his wife Penelope creatively holds off unwanted suitors. It was created as a Greek poem. There is a necessary mix of gods, mythical creatures and characters, including Odysseus’ son, who all try to get him home.
While this isn’t as fast-paced as the other books on this list, the book provides a fascinating insight into the ancient Greek minds. It definitely inspires travel in me and makes me yearn for Greece. I could definitely get lost sailing the Mediterranean from one island to the next.
Read it here: The Odyssey, by Homer
The Romanov Prophecy – Steve Berry
What happened to the Russian royal family is no secret. In 1918, the Bolsheviks brutally murdered Nicholas, the last tsar of Russia, along with his wife and five children. It was a dark period in the country’s history, filled with upheaval and disenchantment. Over the years, many claimed to be the miraculously surviving children of the tsar. However, no evidence exists that anyone from the family managed to live to tell the tale.
In this book, Berry takes a ‘what-if’ approach and creates a fascinating story that takes the readers on a thrilling ride across Russia and the United States. The plot is simple. Modern-day Russian people want to bring back the monarchy. A search for the closest relative of the tsar ensues, but nothing is as it seems.
A shady contender, an old prophecy and uncovered documents start telling a long and very mysterious story. Then some will die to stop it from happening.
This book will be especially fascinating to those with a love for Russian history. Berry takes the literary licence to create a plausible and fascinating narrative that will definitely inspire travel to Russia. I really enjoyed reading it and imagining the possibilities.
The Six Sacred Stones – Matthew Reilly
In The Six Sacred Stones, the world’s destruction is imminent, triggered by a mysterious ceremony. As all life on earth is about to end, there is one hope. Super-solder Jack West and his team of adventurers can save the world by reconstructing an ancient device called the “Machine.” First, they have to find the six sacred stones to figure out how to do it.
As the stones are conveniently scattered around the world, the readers go on a roller-coaster ride to Egypt, Stonehenge and the wilds of China. It’s never a smooth ride, and there is lots at stake. The book is an action-packed adventure with a journey through ancient history and modern military hardware. Tales, legends and myths all have a place here.
Matthew Reilly has written several books featuring Jack West and his team. I have read a number of them, and I have enjoyed them immensely. You are definitely left wondering about the secrets ancient monuments hide. Who knows? You might even want to check them out yourself.
The Story of My Life – Giacomo Casanova
The famous ladies’ man, Giacomo Casanova, is a fascinating figure. Gambling, spying, writing and swindling his way around during the late 18th century, Casanova seduced countless women across Europe. Relying on his many charms and talents, he often got into trouble with authorities and numerous husbands. Although a notorious womanizer, Casanova was an educated man and a skilled writer.
Through his memoirs, you get an insight into European courts’ social life and the intimate lives of people of the time. Plus, you follow his adventures from his native Venice across the European continent. As Casanova’s life was often stranger than fiction, his memoirs make for a fascinating read.
While this book is one of many reasons I yearned for Venice, it also played an influential role in my love of the city. After reading it, you can’t stroll through the streets and canals without thinking of Casanova and his adventures.
Read it here: The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Memoires of Casanova, Complete, by Jacques Casanova de Seingalt.
The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
This is by far my favourite book of all time. As far as I can remember, the story of young d’Artagnan travelling to Paris in hopes of joining the illustrious Musketeers started my love affair with Paris. Throw in adventure, intrigue, betrayal and love, and you have yourself a winner.
Set between 1625 and 1628, the story follows d’Artagnan and his Musketeer friends as they navigate the intrigues of the French and English courts. At stake are honour, diamonds, chivalry, affections and a quest to prevent war between them.
You are along for the ride, with the machinations of Cardinal Richelieu plotting against them. The cunning Milady de Winter always seems one step ahead, and you can’t help but wonder if they will succeed.
I have read The Three Musketeers and have seen numerous movies. The story remains as engaging as it was the first time I have read it. If you’re a fan of France, this story will take you back to a different time and spark your imagination. It will definitely inspire travel, and you might never look at Paris the same way again.
Read it here: The Three Musketeers, by Alexandre Dumas
The Twelve Caesars – Suetonius
Written by Suetonius in AD 121, the Twelve Caesars is a set of biographies of Julius Caesar and the 11 emperors that followed. While it might seem boring, this book is filled with salacious gossip, drama, racy details and scandals of the day. It gives us an insight into the naughty lives of the Roman emperors as well as the violent reality of the time.
These books might inspire travel in you – how about Rome?
It is a fascinating read and very informative, especially for any history lover. This is a walk through the personal lives of the emperors and their contemporaries. Suetonius brings to life people who lived, ruled and conquered two thousand years ago. Some of it is amusing, some shocking and straight out horrifying.
The book has fuelled my love for Rome and Italy since I read it in school. Suetonius covers real people, true events and locations that you can visit today and learn about. Does it inspire travel? Most definitely. It also gives you a lot of fun facts to throw around at parties.
Read it here: The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Lives Of The Twelve Caesars, Completeby C. Suetonius Tranquillus
Historical romances to inspire travel
When I was younger, I fancied myself an aspiring historical romance writer. I devoured so many of them for motivation, not fully expecting them to inspire travel in me. It’s something that happened as a by-product. An unexpected bonus that made London a familiar place before I had ever stepped foot there. Those books made me yearn for the Scottish highlands and the Irish moors. I dreamt of castles, palaces and fashionable mansions, subconsciously fuelling my love for architecture.
I read a lot of Regency-era romances, and I always admired the level of details that went into writing them. Incorporating historical perspectives, fashions, etiquettes and language of the time was why I was hooked on them. While you might roll your eyes at that, I learned a lot from them. As an inquiring mind, I have always admired storylines with strong female characters who navigated the mores of the worlds they lived in to survive. I loved both the challenges and constraints society placed on them, as well as the cleverness and resourcefulness they used to fight them.
It’s been a while since I have read a historical romance, but I can tell you that it felt familiar when I got to London. I can definitely thank those books for inspiring travel in me, even if indirectly.
Final thoughts on books that inspire travel
There are just as many books to inspire travel as there are travel styles. Many books out there in this category tend to be about travel. They focus on what travel teaches us, someone’s experience, or a narrative about specific locations. If you want a book to inspire travel, you’re likely to find one.
What differentiates fictional works is the creative licence writers use to create fictional characters, plots and events. It is also a way of presenting a more interesting way of learning about a place while sparking the reader’s curiosity. I am a sucker for a well-written adventure book that combines history, treasure, secrets and conspiracies set in fascinating locations.
Have you ever had a book that inspired travel in you? Are there any books you would recommend? Let me know.